I’m a Junior at Palo Alto High School and I volunteer regularly for Organizations that promote the destigmatize of mental health in my community. Because of the pandemic, there has been several challenges me and the organizations I volunteer for has encountered as we could not host events or meet in person anymore. This was especially devastating for one of the organizations I volunteer for YCI (Youth Connectedness Initiative) which is part of YCS (Youth Community Service). Our main goal is to bring people together by connecting youth with other youth and adults who wants to raise the awareness of mental health and belonging in our community. Before the pandemic, we relied heavily on in person events like gatherings where people could talk and share or just community events like a movie night hosted by teens, for teens. Now that we could not do the events we were hoping to do as our plans have changed, we had and continue to try and pivot to new formats like online posts, live streams, and online movie nights. Although we pivoted to new content relatively fast which kept us busy for the most part, being unable to engage with the community in person and the fear of losing funding from the county as there was a crisis have definitely been demoralizing for quite a few of us especially when the ideas for what we can do to accomplish our goals online have dried out. Although it does seem like it is a slump especially for volunteering opportunities like YCI, I do see a purpose in our work as many people are actively struggling in many ways, especially teens.
The other organizations I participate in is Allcove. Our goal is to destigmatize mental health in youth between the age of 12 and 25, but to also give those same youth a physical location where they can relax and get help that they need. I am part of their YAG (Youth Advisory Group), hearing the term advisory group might sound like we don’t affect any meaningful decisions made by Allcove but surprisingly or unsurprisingly we actually do a lot of the decision making regarding the choices of furniture, services we offer, and even who to hire as our main role. As this is a youth focused center, we actually decide what projects we want to work on individually with most of us carrying multiple projects we are doing at once. For example, after talking on a panel of youth regarding social media and mental health on a live stream last week, this week I joined the advisory council on the design of the Allcove Centers as I thought I could be of use in helping choose the atmosphere youth want at these centers. Since the construction of the Allcove Center in Palo Alto is not yet complete due to pandemic related delays in construction, we did also have to figure out how to have an effective online center for youth and mental health as we do not have a physical center completed yet nor know how long this pandemic will last. Because of my involvement in Allcove and YCI. It really has given me a new meaning in what being involved in the community feels like. Even though I am no longer able to reach my community members physically like before, I feel ever more connected to my community as I truly believe even with my small contributions, I can make a real difference.
Submitted by Jeremy Peng, Santa Clara County – Palo Alto.